In the Community

Matthews Police National Night Out: A Photoessay

Last night, Police Departments nationwide hosted National Night Out . Started in 1984, National Night Out is an annual event that promotes accessibility and partnership with communities and their police departments.

The Matthews Police hosted this year’s event on the town green in front of Town Hall. Kids were badged junior officers (unofficially) for the evening and enjoyed the bounce houses and balloons; adults learned more about local law enforcement programs and the men and women on the force. Everyone enjoyed meeting the local police team and seeing the vehicles, but K-9 Unit Benjamin was the star of the evening.

If you missed it this year, plan on attending next year. National Night Out is hosted the first Tuesday of August, and the Matthews Police Department is already brainstorming for it.

2810[high]5: Ways to Simplify Your Life

Did you know that the first week of August is National Simplify your Life week? Here are a few ways you can simplify things in your home, at work, and in your mind. 

Declutter - Did you know that there are more reasons to declutter your home than the obvious (less clutter)? According to Psychology Today, it has several psychological benefits as well. It forces you to use decision making and problem solving skills as you prioritize the stuff you have and come up with solutions on how to store it. It can also reduce anxiety, because we lack of order sometimes causes stress. Humans may have evolved to respond this way, because a lack of order in was most likely disadvantageous for early humans. Finally, decluttering might give your mind an opportunity to wander and take a break from your usual thinking.

Prep for Tomorrow - How many times a day do we feel rushed because we are doing something at the last minute? This week, make yourself a list of things you can do to get yourself ready for the next day, even if it’s just one or two activities. Pack your lunch the night before. Before you leave the office, jot down a quick list of what you want to get done tomorrow, Pick out your clothes, pack your work and gym bag, and prep your breakfast. You’ll be surprised how much more smoothly your morning goes the next day.

Embrace "No" - Sometimes, its okay to say no. Many of us are people pleasers (myself included) and we often find ourselves taking on projects or activities that are not beneficial to ours or others lives. If you’re constantly overextending yourself and it’s affecting your mental well-being, use this week as an excuse to practice saying “no” and see if it doesn’t help your outlook.

Prioritize your time - Embracing “no” leads me to the next tip, prioritize time. Now that you’ve gotten some time back by politely declining activities, be mindful of how you spend that time. How much time do you spend mindlessly checking your phone, your email, your twitter feed? Check out from your screens during set hours each day, or only allow yourself to check your phone at the top of every hour. 

Give Yourself a Break - Treat yourself to a destressing activity that you enjoy. Go for a hike. Read a book. Get a massage. Do nothing.

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2810[high]5: Free Dates in Matthews

On a budget for the summer? Here are 5 FREE dates you can and your plus one can do right here in Matthews. Bonus points if you take a selfie and tag @matthewsbeacon with the #MatthewsDateNight!


PDA in front of PDA - Did you know that the giant heart sculpture outside of Stumptown Park is called “Public Display of Affection”? (If you read this Beacon article from 2018 you do!) What better excuse to demonstrate your affection than to do so in front of iconic Matthews public art piece. (This writer strongly encourages you to keep your PDA rated G).

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Checkers at Country Place Park- You and your better half can enjoy the sunshine and decide once and for all who is the board champion. Country Place Park, near Matthews United Methodist church has 3 tables with checkerboard tops for public use, as well as a pollinator garden and bee themed art. Feel like it’s not a free date because you have to go buy your own checkers pieces? Save yourselves some bottle caps from your not-free-dates and make yourself some bottle cap checkers.

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Walking Tour - Did you know the Matthews has its own FREE self-guided walking tour you can follow? Print out the tour, put on your walking shoes, and take turns narrating the history and culture as you travel around town.

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Lecture at the Library - The library has more to offer than just free books (though that’s still pretty awesome). They also offer opportunities to hear talks on subjects like earth friendly way to greenifying your lawn, how to relax through mindfulness and meditation, or a chance to read, write, and discuss poetry

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Volunteer - One of the best ways to strengthen the bonds of an existing relationship is to commit to a shared activity-like volunteering. Matthews has over 55 nonprofits just registered with the Chamber of Commerce, many of which would eagerly appreciate four extra hands. Help HAWK maintain their garden at Squirrel Lake Park, sort donations at the Matthews Help Center food pantry or help build a home with Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity

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2810 [high] 5: Homes Away from Home for Your Guests to Stay (That Aren’t Your House)

Summer is the perfect time for vacations. Time for your sister to load up the car with all her kids for a gathering of the cousins, time for your old college roommates to finally make that road trip to come and see you, or time for in-laws to watch the kids for a week or two while they’re out of school. While everyone loves a good reunion, we all need our space sometimes. Perhaps your home is too small for all your guests, or you can only survive a week with your mother-in-law if you have your own space. Either way, these 5 Matthews options will allow your guests to feel right at home while they’re here, even if it’s not in yours.

The Lemmond House Bed & Breakfast: Offer your guests a little sliver of historical Matthews during their stay in the 28105! The Lemmond House Bed & Breakfast is located right on Trade Street, in the heart of downtown Matthews. You may have driven or walked by it many times without ever even knowing it was there (I did!). The Lemmond Family first built the home in the early 1900s and their family remained there through the 1980s. Today it is owned, operated, and continuously renovated by Bill and Connie Clayton. The Bed & Breakfast offers two second-floor guest rooms, each with a private bath equipped with jacuzzi tub and walk-in showers. Breakfast options include french toast, bacon, eggs with cheese, fruit salad, coffee, and juice. Each of the two rooms can be rented for $149 a night and allows for children over the age of 12 (with adult supervision), but no pets. (Images via Owner’s website)

Matthews Manor Charlotte Bed and Breakfast: Beautiful Matthews Manor is located less than half a mile from Squirrel Lake Park and has four lovely rooms available to rent, with prices ranging from $150-$220 a night. The 7,000 square foot home was originally built in 1973 and used to be part of a 52-acre farm. Your out-of-town guests will be able to rent mountain bikes from the Manor for use on the greenway, have access to a kitchen exclusively for guests, a game room with purple-felted pool table, and swimming pool.(Images via Owner’s website)

The BOHOPad Airbnbnb: If your guests are looking for a unique place at a reasonable price, then the BOHOPad is the place for them. Complete with vaulted ceilings, intricate tile work, and brightly colored walls and decor, the BOHOPad is a hidden bohemian gem in Matthews. The home can accommodate up to 6 guests, with one queen bed, two single beds, a sleeper sofa, and two baths for only $84 a night. Guests will have access to the entire home, and if they need something, the Airbnb hosts are only 15 minutes away. Since you are renting the whole hoouse, children are welcome, but your furry friends will have to stay at home. (Images via Owner’s AirBnB)

Gorgeous Guest Home Airbnb: If you only have one or two guests needing a place to stay, this Gorgeous Guest Home may just what is needed. This new Scandinavian-style apartment has one queen bed and is only $85 a night. Kids are more than welcome, and the hosts even offer to provide a pack and play or toys if needed. The apartment is located next to their home, where they reside with their black lab puppy, so they do have a no pet policy. (Images via Owner’s AirBnB)

Three Bedroom House Airbnb: If you have a large group of guests coming to visit (no wonder you don’t want them staying at your place), or they have a pet, this last Airbnb is the choice for them. With three queen-sized bed and 2.5 baths,  this place is a steal for only $65 a night. Plus, the backyard is screened in, so your traveling animal companions will have a place to stretch their legs. (Images via Owner’s AirBnB)

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2810[high]5: Curbside Groceries

I made a quick visit yesterday to Public Works and was surprised at the number of edible plants interspersed in the landscaping. As a gardener, I appreciate the co-mingling and overlap of annuals, perennials, and edibles. The King of Edible Landscaping, Mario Rmah, is employed with the Town's Public Works Department.

The landscape at their facility got me thinking about other plants in the landscape, both conventional and uncommon. I sent myself on a quest to find other edible landscapes in Matthews. Wander around and see what you can find, and if it’s ok with the property owner, take a little nibble.

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Hosta: There’s a reason the deer love to eat your tender hostas…they’re delicious. More commonly eaten in mountainous regions of Japan, Urui is taking off here in the states as well. Harvest shoots as they pop up in the spring, and cook as you would asparagus. Need some inspiration? How about a recipe that involves butter.

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Lemongrass: If you like clumping fountain grasses but don’t want to end up with the disaster that can be pampas, why not plant lemongrass? It’s an annual here, but smells great and won’t create a giant, immovable root system. Bonus? You’ll have the makings of a delicious curry at your fingertips. This clump, amidst the rudbeckia, is at Public Works, which, I’m learning, is the place to visit if you’re a fan of edible landscaping.

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Malabar Spinach: Not actually a spinach, there’s a large patch between the curb and sidewalk at the Matthews Free Medical Clinic. Malabar spinach is a heat tolerant annual green that readily self-seeds and creates a lush, dense ground covering with brilliant red tendrils. It can be eaten raw or cooked, use it just as you would regular spinach.

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Melons: The garden that sparked my interest in finding edible landscapes is right out front of Public Works. The beautifully curated, layered landscape, was created by Mario. Look closely. Do you see the watermelon peeking out? That large swath of green is actually several watermelon vines and at least two different varieties. There are also some edible herbs sprinkled throughout the ‘Works Department grounds.

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Prickly Pears: Front and center of the parking lot of Pita Kebab is an intimidating island of prickly pear. My first taste (and subsequent fascination) with prickly pears began with Azteca’s Macho Burrito. After being despined, both the paddles and the fruit are edible. From a cold slaw to grilled nopales, prickly pears add a fierce looking element to your edible landscape.


What about Bob?

All photos courtesy Bob Aycock

All photos courtesy Bob Aycock

If you ever get a chance to sit down with Bob Aycock, you better have some time on your hands. It’s not because he talks too much, but because he’s got a lot going on. A former CMS art teacher, avid chicken keeper, father of four (plus two pups), and raised-bed gardener, there’s more to him than meets the eye.

One thing is for sure: Matthews is and has been a constant through Bob’s life.

Bob’s family moved from Charlotte to Matthews in the 80s. A product of Matthews Elementary (then Randolph and East Meck), he left Matthews for college at UNC Wilmington where he graduated with an arts degree.

It was a trip back home that brought Bob and his wife, Jen, together when they ended up carpooling from UNCW to Matthews. Not long after, Bob proposed to Jen in the gazebo in front of Town Hall on Christmas night. Now the two are raising their kids Robert, William, Elisabeth, and Gretchen here.

After teaching for CMS, Bob happened into marketing, which evolved into social media gigs. He knows social media inside and out and is using that knowledge to bring prominent Matthews nonprofits into the social media age. Starting with rebuilding the Matthews Woman’s Club Service League website, he’s now working on rebuilding websites for the Matthews Historical Foundation, Reid House, and Matthews Heritage Museum.


He knows social media inside and out and is using that knowledge to bring prominent Matthews nonprofits into the social media age.

Sitting on the town’s Historic Preservation Advisory Committee as well as the Matthews Historical Foundation (where he serves as 2nd Vice President on the Board), Bob works on expanding their presence on Facebook and Instagram.

All of that busy-ness aside, family remains Bob’s priority. He’s sentimental, as evidenced by his love for Disney. The family hens (Merriweather, Vidia, Tinkerbell, and Rosetta) named after Disney fairies, likely spark as much joy for Bob as his kids.


Holidays are full of wonder for the Aycocks; especially Halloween and Christmas. There’s something magical about both that he likes to recreate for his kids. Each holiday has its own family traditions, starting with a Halloween tree. By Christmas, there’s a decorated tree in almost every room in the house. Of course, there’s a little bit of tech involved, at the Aycock house, Santa’s Mailbox is a Google Doc.

Want to know more? Bob and Jen, own and write WineCarolinas.Com as a way to “to celebrate the charming wineries around us and highlight the rich variety of wines they produce.” Follow him on Instagram for adventures around #MatthewsNC and beyond!

Touching Art: A Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center

When my daughter and I walked into the Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center (123 E. McDowell St.), I still had to ask, “It’s okay to touch everything?” Melissa Johnson, Cultural Recreation Manager for the Town of Matthews, nodded and cheerfully said, “Yep.”

That’s exactly what we did: touched each piece, enjoyed the colors and textures, the variety of methods of art making covered in the exhibit. From metal sculpture to heavily textured abstracts, the show was also perfect for kids. Friendge, Andrea Vail’s interactive community-building project, was an unassuming table in the middle of the room, waiting for viewers to sit down and take part.

With this exhibit, it’s the interaction that sparks the magic of art in this show.

Enjoy some of the photos my daughter and I took, but also go and see it yourself. The Multi-Sensory Art Show is on display through July 5. Hours are typically Monday-Friday: 1 pm-8 pm, Saturday: 10 am-4 pm, and Sunday: 1pm-6pm, but call to double check first: 704-847-9746.

2810[high]5: Book Clubs

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The Pocket Size Book Club: I know you’ve probably already decided you don’t have time to join a book club. You’ve probably decided you don’t even have time to finish reading this article. But before you go, you should know that the Matthews Library hosts a book club specifically for those who are short on time. The Pocket Size Book Club meets monthly and discusses books that are 300 pages or less. For July, they will be reading Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas, a story about a friendship between a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid in Colombia during the reign of the violent drug lord, Pablo Escobar.

Date: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Carolina Beer Temple Book Club: If you’ve ever hung out in downtown Matthews on a Tuesday evening, you probably know about the Carolina Beer Temple’s Tuesday Run Club. But did you know that once a month they also host a book club after the run? In case you’re more into reading than running, don’t worry, you don’t need to run to participate in the book discussion and the books will not be about running. For July, the club will be discussing the book Be Free or Die: The Amazing Store of Robert Smalls Escape from Slavery to Union Hero by Cate Lineberry.

Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2019 8:00 pm-9:00 pm

131 Matthews Station St #1C, Matthews, NC 28105

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Books on Tap: Matthews 20s & 30s Book Club: The Carolina Beer Temple is not the only place you can enjoy an adult beverage while discussing great reads. The Matthews Library hosts a monthly book club at Seaboard Taproom and Wine Bar specifically for the 20s and 30s crowd. In July, they will be reading (one of my personal favorites!) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, the novel is about the connecting paths of a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II.

Date: Thursday, July 11, 2019 -7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

213 N Trade St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Far Horizons Non-Fiction Book Club: If you’re more reading about real life, considering joining the Far Horizons Non-Fiction Book Club at the library. July’s book will be Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Vargas. In his memoir, Vargas poignantly discusses his experience as an undocumented immigrant in the United States and the emotional complexities of trying to “pass” as an American and living in a country for most of your life but still not feeling as if you can call it home.

Date: Monday, July 8, 2019, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Teen: Are you worried your teenager’s brains are beginning to melt over the summer? Encourage them to join the Teen Book Club at the library. Rather than focusing on one particular book, they select a different genre to discuss each month. For July, the focus will be Science Fiction books.

Date: Monday, July 15, 2019, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St, Matthews, NC 28105


Are none of these book clubs your particular choice of genre? Did you know the Charlotte Mecklenburg library actually offers Book Club Kits to help you begin your own book discussion with friends, families, or even strangers? Each kit includes 10 copies of a book, biographical notes on the author, and sample discussion questions, and tips on how to host a successful book club.  Materials can be kept for up to six weeks, and you can learn more and see what book club kits are available by visiting the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library website.

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2810[high]5: Free (or Nearly Free) Fun

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Fountain Rock Park: This passive park is between the Trade St. and Country Place entrances to the greenway. Tucked off to the side, it’s the perfect spot to take the kids when they’re tired of being inside. Who knew a giant rock and splattering water could fuel the imagination? It’s a Matthews mom’s (or dad’s) miracle!

Near the entrance to 4-Mile Creek Greenway at Trade (311 S. Trade St.)

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Visiting the cats at PetSmart: All of the pet fun, none of the litter scooping. We go to PetSmart for essentials, but always stay an extra long time looking at the cats up for adoption. If there’s a volunteer on site, you can even get a few kitty snuggles in.

11210 Brigman Rd, Matthews, NC 28105

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Windsor Park: Go for the zip line, stay for the many opportunities to explore nature. The trees keep things cool, and this park gets bonus points for having a recycling bin at the picnic tables.

10140 Northeast Pkwy (Photos by the author)

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Matthews Library: Always a favorite because free, but also the summer programs look extra fun. This week Discovery Place has programs for all ages. Check the schedule to see what else is going on.

230 Matthews Station St. (Photos from the Library’s website)

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Live Music: This is where the “cheap” comes into play. Live music is easy to find if you’re going to a restaurant. But not buying food? Kinda feels a little weird. A lot of people go to Food Truck Friday just for the music. Why not get a slice of cake and enjoy the music at the Loyalist? This Saturday is a bluegrass band. Grace O’Malley’s hosts a Sunday Session, and the Farmers’ Market has live music as well.

(Top image by South Branch Bluegrass Band, bottom is author’s own)


2810[high]5: Places to Level Up Your Inner Nerd


A. Pennyworth’s Comics: Just like Alfred Pennyworth is a stable presence in the life of Bruce Wayne, so has A. Pennyworth’s Comics, News, and Collectibles been to Matthews. Celebrating their 20-year anniversary in September, A. Pennyworth’s offers new and old comics and collectibles from your favorite tv show, movie, and (of course!)comic book. Whether you’re Team Batman, Team Superman, or Team Not Sure Who to Root For, your Inner Nerd will enjoy questing through the racks of comics, graphic novels, and other pop culture items inside the shop.

11025 Monroe Road, Ste. D Matthews, North Carolina 28105

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AMF Carolina Lanes: Does thinking of the bowling alley conjure up more of your Inner

Dude than your Inner Nerd? At AMF in Matthews, you don’t need to worry whether or not

your mystery block lands on your Big Lebowski or your Big Daddy- both can have a

great time. In addition to bowling, Matthews’ favorite bowling alley also includes an

extensive arcade with both new and classic video games for your Inner Nerd to dedicate

some time to leveling up.

11210 Brigman Rd, Matthews, NC 28105


Temple Mojo: Is your Inner Nerd more the drinking and knowing things type? TempleMojo frequently hosts themed trivia nights where you can prove both of those skills. Past themes have included The Avengers, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones. Plus, Temple Mojo has 26 beers on tap, so whether you fancy yourself a Lannister, a Stark, a Dothraki, or a Wildling, they have plenty of choices to fill up your cup.

195 N Trade St, Matthews, NC 28105

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Charlotte Academy of Music: It may be too late to invest in a magic wand and send your own Inner Nerd off to Hogwarts, but for one magical, spellbinding week this summer, your child can experience the wizarding world of Harry Potter at the CharlotteAcademy of Music’s Harry Potter summer camp. They will start their week off meetingHogwarts famous sorting hat and learn once and for all whether they really are a Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw. Once placed into their individual houses, campers will spend their time creating Harry Potter inspired art. Camp will end with an exhibition for family and friends and the announcing of the winner of the House Cup. Two sessions of camp are still available!

15040 Idlewild Rd Suite C, Matthews, NC 28104


NerdsToGo: Is your inner nerd still a technology newb? That’s okay, NerdsToGo has you covered. If you find your inner (or outer) nerd is facing a technology monster that’s above their player level, contact NerdsToGo. With their home office located in Matthews, NerdsToGo will travel to you and offers maintenance and repair services for your computer or smart device.

3521 Matthews-Mint Hill Rd, Matthews, NC 28105

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2810[high]5: Flowers to Forage

Edible flowers are a delicate way to add variety to your palate, and when they’re in abundance and right outside your door, then why not? Eat them fresh on a salad, or make a simple syrup. This is a basic recipe. I tend to use a full cup of flowers per cup of water.

Some quick etiquette for your foraging expedition: don’t take all of what you find, someone else may forage there, too; make sure it’s not an area that’s sprayed with herbicide; if you’re harvesting from a heavily traveled roadside, make sure you’re 30-feet or more from the road.

As always, make sure you know exactly what you’re harvesting.

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Chive Blossoms: This one is less “foraging” and more scouring the garden for what’s in bloom. While the other flowers on this list lend a sweeter flavor profile, chive blossoms provide a savory component to the spectrum of edible flowers. Pour white vinegar over a handful of blossoms for a delicious (fuchsia!) salad vinegar, add to savory crepes, sprinkle on a salad—use chive blossoms for a mild hint of onion.


Dandelion: I know, I know, your HOA wants them gone, the bees want them for pollen, and now I’m telling you to eat them. It’s easy to find recipes for this sunny flower—wine, fritters, syrup, and jam. Pickle the buds before they open for a locavore take on capers.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Elderflowers: The large umbels are cheering up roadside ditches everywhere right now. You may have tried the flavor while drinking a St. Germain-based cocktail or in a hot tea. The flowers are considered medicinal by many, and similar in use to the elderberry. Can’t find the time to forage? These you can find dried at the Matthews Farmers’ Market!

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Honeysuckle: Invasive honeysuckle is an easy one to identify. Dry some in a dehydrator (or in an oven on the lowest setting with the oven door open) for a tasty tea. One hot cup of honeysuckle tea is a throat-soothing reminder of summer in the dead of winter. Or make a refreshing syrup for homemade sodas and popsicles!

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Linden: Blossoms on the linden trees are just starting to appear. As with all flowers, syrup is a popular go-to. Linden (or tilia) is also popular as an evening tea; sit down with a cup when you’re ready to wind down for the day. Another common recipe is to preserve the flowers in honey for a pancake topping. Use the syrup in place of gin for a mocktail twist on the classic gin and tonic.


Matthews Last Week Today

Last week’s events throughout Matthews included several significant topics: transportation, affordable housing, and local food. Here are a few snapshots from each.

Last week Alta Design, a consultant for the Town of Matthews, hosted several workshops and open work sessions to provide residents with the opportunity for input in transportation within the downtown Matthews footprint. If you couldn’t make it to one of the sessions, watch the Facebook Live video presented by Town of Matthews Transportation Planner Dana Stoogenke, AICP, and John Cock, Alta Design + Planning VP.

Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity held a home dedication for their most recently completed home. This home was part of the Sandy Marano Memorial Women Build. Matthews residents and Habitat supporters showed up en masse for the ribbon cutting and dedication.

Volunteers for the Matthews Volunteer Farmers’ Market gathered for their annual thank you lunch at Sante. Market Manager Paulette Wilkes and Assistant Manager Jessica Thomas shared words of gratitude for the volunteers before a casual, locally-sourced lunch prepared by Chef Adam Reed.

Vivian Brenner: Life Independent of Faith

I wasn’t really sure what to say. Religion is a private matter. At least, that’s how I was raised.

“Where is your faith home?” Vivian Brenner, a Matthews resident for almost two decades, was startled by this frequent question when she moved here from Washington, DC, back in 2000. “I wasn’t really sure what to say. Religion is a private matter. At least, that’s how I was raised.” People she met would press her for an answer. A few even became incensed when she replied, “I don’t have one.”

Brenner considers herself an atheist though culturally Jewish. Her parent’s families were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. Her mother’s side of the family was more interested in helping people than in religious observance. They were union organizers in New York City for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. “Grandpa was very fierce about human rights. About people’s right to have a dignified life.”

Vivian’s Maternal Grandmother

Vivian’s Maternal Grandmother

Her father’s family were more traditional, conservative Jews, but with the same interest in helping others. Her great aunt collected food from the well-to-do to stock food pantries for new immigrants in Norfolk, VA, in the early 1900s.

As for her own upbringing, “My dad was a scientist. We were very much guided by his scientific method, testing every belief.”

All of us. We’re supposed to make the world a better place for everyone, not just a special few.
Photo courtesy Vivian Brenner

Photo courtesy Vivian Brenner

With this family background, Brenner developed a deep belief in treating people well. “All of us. We’re supposed to make the world a better place for everyone, not just a special few.” Her lack of belief in an external God “is not a denial of anyone’s personal beliefs.” She feels strongly about this. “I don’t care what people say their beliefs are or what church they go to or don’t go to. I care about how people behave.”

Matthews, says Brenner, while not overtly prejudiced about religion, is influenced by its predominantly Christian population. Meetings begin with Christian prayers. Public spaces are decorated for Christian holidays. Awareness of her minority status is unavoidable. She feels “an ingrown caution” when it comes to talking about religion with people she does not know. “I am pretty discreet in Matthews and in my life.”

Matthews, while not overtly prejudiced about religion, is influenced by its predominantly Christian population. Awareness of her minority status is unavoidable.

Discreet though she may be, Brenner is not afraid to raise her voice and stand up for her beliefs.  In June of 2013, she joined the Moral Monday protesters at the state legislature building in Raleigh, led by Rev. William Barber, protesting poor teacher pay, erosion of voting rights, and lack of Medicare expansion. Thousands showed up for these protests begun in 2013, and more than a thousand protesters have been arrested over the years. On June 3, 2013, Brenner was among the protesters arrested for trespass. The arrest record reads, in part, “…assembled with at least three or more persons engaged in disorderly conduct… failed to disperse and remained at the scene.” Another charge was “Post or display of signs and placards.” Brenner was carrying an 8.5X11” sheet of paper that read “Protect Voting Rights.”

Brenner has great respect for Rev. Barber’s work, but, she says, a belief in God is “unrelated to my belief in moral, considerate and ethical behavior.” Reverend Barber agrees.


Meet Your Neighbor: Valerie Rhymer

Immediately upon meeting Valerie Rhymer you “get” why she’s a Kindermusik teacher. Her natural smile, focused attention, and vibrant personality is precisely what you’d want in a music teacher for young children.

The classroom is a community all its own, but representative of the greater Matthews community as well: neighborly sharing and easy kindnesses.

After spending nearly two decades working with Children’s Theater, Valerie decided it was time for a shorter commute. Now she spends her mornings teaching Kindermusik at the Community Center, and the commute is much better. In fact, her new commute is a couple of minutes on foot—she walks to work from her family’s downtown Matthews home.

Valerie moved to Charlotte in 1998 from Montana and moved to Matthews five years ago. The cozy community and walkability brought her family of three to town. The good school system helped, as well.

Visit one of her classes, and you’ll see how she weaves her attentiveness into what could otherwise be a chaotic (yet fun) playgroup. What do such small children gain from the experience? Watch the interactions between parent and child, and it’s obvious; they learn in countless ways: from simple acts like sharing and taking turns, to developing awareness like shape recognition and sensory exploration. They even learn a little bit of American Sign Language.

For those who don’t believe they are musically inclined, Valerie quickly dispels that idea, “Your voice is your child’s favorite sound! Give yourself some credit!”

Above all, the class emphasizes the importance of togetherness. That active engagement between families and friends makes her classes a success. The classroom is a community all its own, but representative of the greater Matthews community as well: neighborly sharing and easy kindnesses. You get the feeling that’s Valerie’s approach in all aspects of life.

Have a neighbor you want to know more about or do you want to be featured? Let us know!

HAWK's Earth Day with Kids in Nature Celebration

Habitat and Wildlife Keeper’s 2019 Earth Day with Kids In Nature Day event was this past Saturday at Squirrel Lake Park. If you didn’t make it out, the group hosted about 40 vendors and area nonprofits who engaged area kids about and taught all things nature.

If you couldn’t make it, don’t fret! We’ve took photos to share a few of our favorite booths.